Thailand is excited about the crypto market. We are so enthusiastic that Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) established a 50-million-US-dollar blockchain fund in February of this year.
So excited that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is currently looking into attracting “wealthy” Japanese crypto holders to vacation in Thailand as a strategy to boost the kingdom’s tourism industry that has been beaten black and blue by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But here we are only talking about rich people, aren’t we? What about everyone else?
Cryptocurrency, bitcoin, and blockchain technology are touted as ways and means to ease economic inequality. Theoretically, it’s possible. Realistically, that depends on other factors, namely education, opportunity, and inclusion.
The knowledge required to invest wisely, plus the opportunity to become an investor. But education and opportunity are for naught if regulations are too restrictive.
Government regulations the world over can be annoying. In Thailand, it can be maddening.
For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recent move has caused “outrage” among crypto stakeholders in the kingdom.
What’s the outrage?
The SEC is mulling over a plan to enact a one-million-baht minimum annual income for crypto investment in Thailand. That’s already denying the investment opportunity for most Thais.
However, amidst backlash from the country’s crypto industry, the SEC has said the plan isn’t yet in play. It was meant to just, you know, test the opinions of the industry.
This is similar to the various government COVID-19 measures over the past year: throw something out there, let the people become outraged, then backpedal.
There’s a recurring pattern here.
That said, the level of restrictions is a matter of small government versus big government
A small government restricts its role to mostly issues of the state. A big government is like a grumpy, old nanny who wants to control everything you do. Including the business sector.
Over-regulations can dampen an industry, if not giving it a slow death by a thousand cuts. Not enough regulations can open pandora’s box of corruption.
The balance is somewhere in between.
While we don’t yet know whether the one-million-baht minimum restriction will be put in place, the issue is worth a more in-depth discussion.
Addressing economic inequality
In a country (and a world) plagued by economic inequality, if you ask crypto enthusiasts, they would say the crypto industry is one way to reduce the inequality gap.
However, putting a one-million-baht annual income for crypto investment isn’t going to address inequality. In fact, it’s reserving financial opportunities for the selected few.
The argument is, the opportunity should be open to anyone to become a crypto investor, including farmers and street vendors. Break it free, widen it out. Regulate it in the interests of transparency and accountability, not in the interests of exclusion.
Obviously, not every farmer and street vendor will quit their day job and become crypto investors. But the point is, educate the public and create the opportunity.
Whether or not anyone would invest is a matter of personal choice.
Are we ready for this?
Immutability. Transparency. (Digital) Freedom. Decentralization. Ease of usage. Security. Affordability. Efficiency.
All those terms listed above are the virtues of a viable economic model, from the primitive era of the bartering economy to the digital age of cryptocurrency exchange.
And crypto traders would argue, the industry ticks the boxes on all of the above.
Coinpedia, a fintech and cryptocurrency news media, has this to say about Thailand and the crypto market:
“Almost 10% of internet users own cryptocurrencies with a broad range of age groups between 16-64, this is a very high cryptocurrency ownership ratio as of 2020.”
If the question is, “Are we ready for this?” Then the answer is, “Thailand has been ready for years.”
If you belong to the middle or upper class in Thailand, you know somebody who knows somebody who’s in the market.
All good things come with bad things
The world of crypto, bitcoin, and blockchain isn’t all sunshine and rainbow.
If people are doing something, it’s a guarantee that some people will corrupt that something; such is humanity’s flaw.
Crypto trading is not without its detractors, especially when it comes to money-laundering.
Hence, the point earlier: education and opportunity are key. Regulations should be for preventing malpractices. Not for excluding the majority of the people from the market.
After all, financial independence is key to freedom.
Just imagine: a Japanese tourist sitting down for a bowl of boat noodle at a street vendor and pay for the delicious meal with bitcoin.